Music Monday Vol 2… also, I know it’s Tuesday

So, I was sitting here thinking about what to write about… and I forgot to do a music monday post!!!

It’s been a crazy week and weekend… and frankly, I’ve had a bit of writer’s block… I think the fear of the Daily Prompt leaving has got me in a tizzy…

Regardless, here’s what I’ve been listening to!!

I recently got asked to sit in for a gig with another local band next month.  They play a lot of great music!!! A lot of which is complex, and actually has me TRYING to play the bass.. which is not something I often have to do… My band tends to pick simpler songs, for whatever reason.. but I love the technical stuff!!!!  So, here are a few of Graces Downfall’s cover songs and originals that I just love to play!

Cult of Personality – Living Colour

What a ridiculously fun song to play!!  Listen to those syncopated parts.  That bass is phenomenal!  There are some pretty complex riffs in there that have to be tight, or this whole tune can fall apart!! I really enjoy flying all over the fret-board for this one:

Such an awesome tune… I hope you enjoyed that as much as I do!

Hysteria – Muse

No no, not Def Leppard… This song by Muse has one of the most badass bass riffs to come out of the last 15 years… It not only sounds hard to play.. it IS hard to play. I find myself having to focus on not ‘tripping’ over my own fingers to blast that bass line out!!  Check it out:

Chris Wolstenholme is one hell of a bassist, and the perfect fit for that Trio.

I Only Lie When I Love You – Royal Blood

Royal Blood is my current music obsession.. I love Mike Kerr’s style of playing and vocals.. the way he makes his bass sound like 3 instruments is unreal!!! My drummer and I also cover their songs Figure it Out, and Out of the Black during live shows in my band Audiobox. This will be my first time playing a Royal Blood song with a 4 piece band, and I still am no less excited!!  This song is both heavy and poppy. The riffage coming from Kerr’s bass, matched with the Ridiculously underrated drumming of Ben Thatcher, just kicks ass from Britain to here and back!!

Guerilla Radio – Rage Against the Machine

Here’s a band who needs no introduction… And here’s a song that just pounds on your ear drums from start to finish. Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk make up one of my favorite Rhythm Sections in 90’s rock… I’d say the only other bass/ drummer duo that can even come close to the talent these two would have to be Flea and Chad Smith (of the Chili Peppers).   I love the bass line in this song.. it’s somewhat minimalistic, and serves the rest of the music perfectly. There is so much more that could be put in here, but it’s not necessary. Tim has always been good about serving the music and playin only what needs to be played.

Fight – Graces Downfall

Here it is, one of the (many) originals by the band I’ll be sitting in with… Their bass player Grant Williams, who is a good friend of mine, can really write some wicked bass parts! I am honored to get a chance to fill his shoes for an evening and play one of the songs he helped write!! Kenneth Norton is one of the best singers in the Pennsylvania music scene, in my opinion, and Mark Yanish’s rips on the electric guitar!! If you haven’t had a chance to check these guys out, you really should! They are, without a doubt, the heaviest hitting band in the North Eastern Pennsylvania music scene!

So, there you have it!!!

If you’re in Pennsylvania, I’ll be playing with Graces Downfall on June 9th at the Oak Street Express in Taylor, Pennsylvania!! We will be rocking all of these great tunes and more!!!

Thanks again to ReadRantRock&Roll for giving me the idea to do music monday!!
I hope you enjoyed what I am listening to and have a great week!!!

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Tips for Stage Fright

Tom Pogson, a fellow blogger and musician, wrote a post: Stage fright, comparing yourself and other frets. It’s a good post, and you should go read it!!!

I’ve been gigging semi-professionally in my region for over a decade now, playing music almost my entire life… and I have a little insight on how to get over stage fright.

A. Your crowd is generally not packed full of musicians…

And what I mean by that, is that the only people who are really judging the way you play are yourself.. and possibly your bandmates. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.. I make hundreds of them… It’s being able to recover from a mistake and not look like you’ve made one, that is important… My wife is still new to the guitar, and I am constantly telling her:
“Think of the most average guitar player you know… and remember half of all of them are worse than that person. If you are at the middle of the road, you’re already better than half of the guitarists in the world… and definitely better than anyone who hasn’t even played it.” That type of realization will make playing in front of others a breeze… because what may be “Just Okay” to you, is inspiring to someone who hasn’t even picked up an instrument.

B. Practice in front of a mirror!

This may sound ridiculous, but it helps! I always did this when I was younger, it helped me not look at the headstock of my bass/guitar while playing.. and it made me focus away from myself. It’s a great technique for learning the feel of your instrument, and also being able to look someone in the eyes while you’re playing.. even if it is yourself!

C. Know your parts!

This is key… You have nothing to be ashamed of if you’re playing to the best of your ability!! Nervousness comes from discomfort… Learning to be comfortable being in front of people is a lot easier when you have the confidence in your own abilities!!!

D. Know how to turn it off

Once you have mastered the art of performing on a stage… you need to learn when it’s time to stop. This is as important as performing well!! I know too many musicians who get into ‘rockstar mode’ and don’t know when to just chill out and be human… I explain my ‘stage presence’ to people in the likeness of acting… When I am on stage I am a “Character.” Now, that character may just be me.. but it’s me, on stage, entertaining a crowd of people… I’m quite reserved and relaxed most of the time, and honestly have huge anxiety about crowds of people.. but who I am on stage is a little more personable…
If you just keep on acting like you’re God’s gift to mankind once you are among your crowd.. you are just going to come off as a pretentious fool. One thing I am proud to say that my band doesn’t have, is an overabundance of ego. We know where we stand talent wise… and we know that being overly competitive in the music scene is not helpful.

These may help you.. they may not… but I know in my experience it has been a huge assistance in my musical journey!! You will always find a crowd to be more responsive to someone who can put on a great show, and then come off of the performance and hang out with them. It’s much easier to sell your band’s music, if you are approachable as a human being!

As always, thanks for reading!!! I hope I have shed some insight into the world of performing music for someone!

Musical Influences Ep1: Victor Wooten

If there’s something I can talk about, until I’m blue in the face, it’s music.  From theory, to its effect on our mood, deep lyrical ideas, to chord changes that give you goosebumps… it’s something that is such a large part of my life, i find a way to integrate it into every part.

I’m going to try a ‘series’ of posts talking about my biggest influences, as a musician. These are in no particular order (well, maybe this one is the most important, but the rest won’t be..), and I will write them as I think of them!

Does the name Victor Wooten mean anything to you?  Funny, that you probably haven’t heard of a guy who is a recipient of 5 Grammy awards; as a bass player, written 3 books, is an all around decent man, and an incredible teacher.

Probably because he isn’t a pop-star. He’s just talented beyond your wildest imagination!

I got to meet Victor briefly, and I promise I’m not going to romanticize this meeting. I was starstruck. My jaw hit the floor as I stood in front of the man who has no idea I exist.  What he didn’t know is this: I picked up the bass guitar from watching a VHS tape my dad had recorded of some Jazz festival in the mid ’90s, of two songs Bela Fleck and the Flecktones played.
After a few brief moments of silence, as I stood in front of my biggest influence, my friend Matt looked at him and said “He’s a really big fan.” I shook his hand, then ran into him later after his show. He signed the pick guard for my prized mid-80’s Fender Jazz bass, and I went on my way.

“The Sinister Minister” is the song that made me want to play the bass. The funky groove, high energy, and that damn bass solo.. From a song that didn’t even have spoken lyrics, is what captivated me to start plucking on a bass.

In fact, here’s the exact video that sparked my obsession:

Now that you’ve seen that… and I really hope you did. Maybe you can understand a little more about me, as a musician.  When I picked up the bass, I wanted to be able to to that.  After years of practice, I haven’t learned all of his tricks, but I’ve taken bits from his style of playing and added it to my own mixed bag of styles to create MY sound.

Here I am, almost 18 years later, hailed (not by myself, mind you) as one of the best bass players in the area. People know who I am, and I have a local “following.” It’s a weird concept to me, because I’ve never really thought of myself as that.

Aside from being a great musician, Wooten is also a great human being. He’s very in tune with nature, one of THE most modest people you would ever want to meet, and very kind.  He speaks to young musicians in a way that will comfort them as they come into their own. One of my favorite quotes of his, that I use all the time “You are never more than a half step from a wrong note” encourages the idea that if you DO hit a sour note, just bend it up or slide down and you’re in the ‘right key’ Now, from a young aspiring musicians perspective, that’s some impressive advice.

His website had (may still have) some of his lessons, when I started really beginning to understand how the bass worked.  A couple were sort of life-lesson sort of things, but a few were very deep into his methodology of the bass guitar.  The one that changed my ideas on the bass forever was the “Thump, Hammer, Pluck” Technique, which took me forever to understand (mind  you I was 13-14 years old trying to decipher the knowledge of a life-time musician.   The idea that you don’t have to play every strike of a note with one hand, is the basis.  Thump – to strike a string with your thumb, Hammer – to hammer a note, and Pluck – to pull a string or ‘pop’ it with one of your other fingers. I would spend hours at school drumming triplets out on my desk in this fashion: Right thumb, any finger on my left hand, then my right index or middle finger. This eventually evolved into the tump,hammer, pluck,pluck, or the thump, hammer, thump, pluck.. or any variation of alternate notation… It’s how he plays so fast- with seemingly no effort at all. It’s genius ideas like that, that have made him the number one bass player in the world.

I hope you’ve learned a little bit today about music, its influences on me, and why I’m so passionate about something other people tend to overlook.

Thank you, so much, for your time! Hope you all have a wonderful day!
-Joe